MORE than seventy firefighters were involved in fighting the Oxfam blaze.
Services were seriously stretched as firefighters from all over West Yorkshire were drafted in to tackle one of the town’s biggest ever blazes.
The massive operation involved over 70 firefighters from 10 crews across the area, who battled overnight to fight the blaze at the Oxfam warehouse on Beck Road.
And they faced huge obstacles in their bid to gain control.
They were unable to enter the building for hours as it threatened to collapse around them. The crews were also beaten back by a burning gas pipe leading into the building, which had to be kept on fire for their safety.
Andy Wooler, watch commander at Huddersfield fire station, said that as there was no one in the building the safety of the firefighters had to be priority.
He said: “We couldn’t go in because it was too dangerous so we had to use aerial appliances to put water over the fire from above. The gas supply was burning but we couldn’t put it put because we would have got leaking gas.
“We had to keep the area around the pipes lit until we could get the gas supply isolated but that meant we had pockets of fire inside the building that were continuing to burn and spread.
“Part of the building collapsed because of the intensity of the fire and again it wasn’t safe for us to enter the building while that was still happening.”
Engineers from Transco had to dig up part of the road to turn off the gas and make it safe.
The first of the fire crews arrived at the scene just after the fire started at around 6pm, but it wasn’t until around midnight that they were able to enter the building and tackle the remaining flames.
By this time most of the roof had collapsed under the force of the blaze. Mr Wooler said: “The gas being made safe made it safer for us to get to the fire and carry on putting it out around the building.
“But the integrity of the building had been compromised and we had to wait for the roof to collapse before we could get in to the fire.”
The firefighters cut through the front shutters used by the plant’s vehicles to tackle to remainder of the blaze.Related content
Specialist hazardous materials officers were on hand to check the asbestos sheeting in the roof, as there had been fears that particles would be broken up and spread in the flames.
Other services called were Yorkshire Water who had to help increase the water mains pressure as the supply ran low.
Police also had to close off surrounding roads as the thick plume of smoke threatened to spread.
Yesterday structural engineers and fire investigation officers were examining the site, which is expected to be pulled down because of the extent of the damage.
Mr Wooler described the blaze as the biggest he had seen in Huddersfield for years and said that it was fortunate that it did not spread further and cause more devastation.
He said: “There was a huge amount of clothing in the building which meant that it was ‘fire loaded’ and that helped it to burn.
“It was lucky that there were gaps between the building as it would probably have spread to others.
“The incident was so big that crews had to be brought in from all over West Yorkshire and I’ve not seen something on this scale in Huddersfield for quite some time.
“It wasn’t just in the area as we had to get water from more than a mile away.
“It really stretched the public services. Ambulance crews had to bring breathing apparatus and police were here but eventually had to leave because of a road traffic collision”.